France: the (Muslim) Brothers of Qatar!

Who are the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in France? And what are they worth within the hexagonal Islamist nebula? Although there are no precise figures on the number of militants and even fewer on the supporters of the Brotherhood, it is indisputable that it has known a growing presence and influence in France over the past twenty years thanks in particular to the entry it has been able to make into the most prominent associations and organisations representing Muslim communities. And also thanks to the generous funding provided by Qatar.

The infamous organisation “Muslims of France” (MoF) is the main manifestations of the Muslim Brotherhood in France. Founded in 1983, MoF has long been known as the “Union of Islamic Organisations of France” (UIOF). Then, in favour of the unpacking that followed the establishment of a blockade against Qatar by the “coalition of moderate Arab countries” (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain), the UIOF was included on the list of terrorist organisations, because of its allegiance to Tanzim al-Dawli, the global tentacle of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Qatar is the main donor. 

Fearing to find itself in the line of fire of the European services in charge of the fight against terrorism financing, the UIOF hastened to hold an extraordinary congress in February 2017. The organization then officially distinguished itself from Tanzim al-Dawli and decided to change its name to “Muslims of France”.

Despite these changes in facade, MoF remains the centre of gravity of the Muslim Brotherhood nebula in France. To maintain and increase its influence among Muslims in France, it relies on a large network of about 100 mosques. Its ideological and organizational control also passes through the training of imams. 

Thus, the former president of MoF, Abdellah Ben Mansour, teaches in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, within the imams’ training institute affiliated to the “European Institute of Human Sciences” (EIHS). A private university entity, whose Qatari funding and ideological control of the Muslim Brotherhood has been revealed by several police and journalistic investigations, the most recent of which is Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot’s Qatar Papers (see Sreen Watch, n°1, May 2019).

Satellite organisations

The Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy, which aims at influencing the faithful on a daily basis, is also based on a multitude of associations, which have in common that they gravitate around MoF and benefit from Qatar’s financial generosity. In this sprawling group of associations, there are a jumble of local or regional associations, such as the “Association of Muslims of Alsace”, the “Havre of knowledge” or the “Islamic Center of Villeneuve d’Ascq”; categorical organisations for young people, such as “Young Muslims of France” and “Muslim Students of France”, or for women, such as the “French League of Muslim Women”; anti-racist or humanitarian NGOs, such as the “Collective Against Islamophobia in France”, the “Avicenna Medical Association of France” or the “Committee of Charity and Relief for Palestinians”.

As in all the countries where they are present, the Muslim Brotherhood also relies on the education sector to assert its influence on Muslim communities in France. They have about thirty Islamic schools, the most famous of which is the “Lycée Averroès” in Lille. A school of excellence, ranked best high school in France in 2013 and best in the “Hauts de France” region in 2018, but whose pedagogical content is strongly criticised by Soufiane Zitouni, a philosophy teacher who resigned from his position at the school. In an article published by Libération, he denounced the “unhealthy and dangerous mix of religion and politics” in this high school educational programs.

Some figures linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in France do not have formal links with MoF, even if they have privileged relations with some of its leaders. These are Islamist activists who act, on the surface, as free electrons or as a kind of “lone wolf”, unarmed but extremely virulent. Their ideological links with the Muslim Brotherhood and financial ties with Qatar are, however, beyond doubt.  

This is the case, for example, of Nabil Ennasri, a true Islamist activist and pseudo academic, who presents himself as a “qatarologist” (sic !) and who runs a site to the glory of the Emirate of Gas, entitled “Qatar Observatory”! 

Since 2011, he also chairs the Muslims Collective of France (MCF), which was born in the early 1990s and has long been a fan club of Tarek Ramadan in France!